This account is one of a series recorded in Look! This is Timsbury – a book that was compiled by a group of people who met at the Cheshire Home in the 1980’s to record the reminiscences of older people in Timsbury. This account is an interview with Bill Player, an evacuee in Timsbury, and is reproduced by kind permission of the Cheshire Home.
On 1st September 1939 my brother and I were to become, what we know now as evacuees.
Early in the morning with my pillowcase over one shoulder and boxed gas masks over the other I boarded one of the many buses which took me from Custom House to Plaistow underground station. There we all formed up and took our places on the train. It seemed very full.
As the train drew away no-one seemed to know where we were going. After travelling, what seemed hours and hours we eventually arrived in Bath. Once again we were all gathered together and taken into Bath Abbey.
After some refreshment I was given a food pack and taken outside, where there were some single decker buses lined up. We never see single decker buses in London! All the buses were filled with children and teachers and helpers.
Once again we were on the move and I can remember the fields with the stone walls as we sped along. The journey now seemed longer than it was for as late afternoon approached the buses entered Timsbury and on to what was then the Timsbury new school.
I can remember everyone being crowded in the school’s main hall, where we waited around in groups. Suddenly it dawned on me that we were being picked out gradually to go and live with someone.
It seemed only me, my brother and another boy were left when we were told to go with a lady and take our belongings. It was dark when we got outside and followed the lady through the village, past some old looking cottages till we stopped at one, and we all went inside. It was now about 10.00pm. Once inside by the glow of a paraffin lamp I saw a man badly deformed and crippled, walking with the aid of a stick but everyone was so tired, we were soon in bed and and asleep.
In the morning we found out that we were living with Mr and Mrs Greenwood at Bloomfield. It was soon apparent that Mr Greenwood (Percy) was not capable of doing any work of any kind, and so it fell to us to collect the wood, because the weather was so cold. Trees were falling from the weight of the ice. In between we played the local boys marbles with small chalk marbles which had to be knocked out of the ring. We hadn’t seen this type of marble before, as at home it was all glass marbles which we used to play with in the road gutters.
At school the evacuees had their own two classes. Class 1 was with Mr Stanley and Class 2 was with Mr Keen. What sight for local people who sometimes saw three or four boys scurrying across the school lawns to avoid the teacher’s cane. Yes they certainly brought a new dimension to quiet Timsbury.
However, time passed and we merged into village life, but the time had come when my brother and I had to take leave of Mr and Mrs Greenwood and we were rebillited with Mr and Mrs T Ashman at 4 Mill Lane and who are still resident at that address.
I remained there until I passed the 11 Plus exam. My brother in the meantime had passed on to another billet. Once again I was on the move but this time it was to go to my London equivalent of the Grammar School and which was based in Newquay, Cornwall. This would normally be the end of my life in Timsbury but 46 years later that small boy, almost the last boy left in the Hall that night on arrival is still here. Yes I am now the school caretaker.